Pear Almond Tart

pear tart (2 of 5)

I think tarts are an under appreciated art form. The sweet, tender crust is the perfect frame for just about any filling. This one has poached pears laying in a bed of almond cream and surrounded by toasted almonds. The flavor combination is classically French and looks sophisticated enough to be served at any special occasion. But, it’s really quite simple to create and there’s no reason not to have it on a Tuesday or for breakfast or as an after school snack.  (more…)

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Poached Pear Ginger Cake

Pear Ginger Cake| ZoeBakes (1 of 6)

This is the quintessential fall cake.

Poached pears were the symbol of a sophisticated dessert when I was a kid. Not that we ever had them, but I saw them standing tall on the pages of Gourmet magazine and always thought how magical it would be to eat something so beautiful. They’re just so elegant and complex and generally boozed up with wine.  I poached these in a chai tea cider mixture and they are just as satisfying without the buzz. The cake is spicy with a kick of freshly grated ginger and tons of warm spice from cloves and cinnamon. It’s by no means an overly sweet cake, which is how I like them. The molasses gives it color and that edge of bitter that I love. I’ve made it using more molasses and I love it, but I mellowed it down by adding some brown sugar to the mix. I think this is a perfect Thanksgiving dessert!

Pear Ginger Cake| ZoeBakes (6 of 6) (more…)

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Pear Galette from The Salty Tart!

2/17/11 update: Michelle was just nominated for her 3rd James Beard Award!!!! So well deserved. Find more information from the Beard winning journalist Rick Nelson’s Star Tribune article.

I met Michelle Gayer’s desserts many years before I ever met her. When I was still a pastry assistant I came to work with Charlie Trotter’s Desserts, which Michelle wrote while she was the pastry chef at Trotter’s, and convinced the team to make everything out of it. Her style was entirely about the food, elegant, but not architectural and overly fussy. I did manage to bake and cook my way through her book and probably landed the Executive Pastry Chef job as a result. Fast forward a decade and I was introduced to Michelle by a mutual friend. Michelle had just moved to Minneapolis from Chicago with her family to create the desserts for a national bakery. It was one of the finest days in our fair city’s history of sweets. We became fast friends, not in the kitchen, but on the playground with our kids. The very first day I met her we talked about her dream of opening her own bakery, which seemed as inevitable as snow in Minnesota.

Just about 3 years ago she finally got the chance and opened the Salty Tart. It is an award winning treasure in the Global Market. Filled with artisan breads (she uses a sour starter she got when she worked with Nancy Silverton), French pastries, to die for cookies and cupcakes. We did an event together last summer for a Farm to Table dinner at the Walker Art Museum and I got to work in her kitchen. Not only were her desserts lick-the-plate-clean-delicious and gorgeous, but her team at the bakery loved every second of being there with her. She opened her dream bakery and it is as wonderful and fun as she is.

Michelle has generously shared her recipe (below) for this stunning Pear Galette, which is rustic and easy to make. She, of course, makes her own puff pastry at the Salty Tart, but you can create this dessert very quickly by using a store bought pastry.

Congratulations to the winners of last weeks American Masala Giveaway, details at the end of the post:

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Happy Thanksgiving and a couple of announcements!

Thank you for visiting Zoë Bakes! I wanted to write a short post to let you know how much your lovely comments of encouragement have meant to me. As many of you have noticed I’ve taken a sabbatical of sorts from blogging. I miss it and will be back soon. Jeff and I are working on our third book (Pizza and Flatbreads in Five Minutes a Day) together and it is due at the beginning of December. It is so exciting and tremendous fun, but it is like a child and has taken most of my time.

I have also been presented with an opportunity to work with one of my all time favorite Twin Cities chefs. Steven Brown, who I worked with many years ago is opening his own restaurant in Minneapolis called Tilia. I got down on my knees and begged him to let me be a part of it and help him with the desserts. What a crazy good time, playing with sugar in the presence of such an inspired chef. The picture above are just a few of the desserts I created for our first tasting together (sticky toffee cake, soaked in caramel and glazed with chocolate, a German Chocolate Cake and an apple-pear spice cake with orange cardamom glaze). It will be a menu of our interpretation of some classics, made with the best local ingredients and a whole lot of love. To find out more about Tilia and watch the process of opening a restaurant you can visit the Tilia facebook page.

and there are now gorgeous Tilia gift certificates for holiday giving. I hope you will come and visit.

I have so much to be thankful for this holiday season and I look forward to coming back to Zoë Bakes soon to blog about all that I have been working on.

Thanks, Zoë

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Caramel Apple & Pear Cake

Haralson, Honeycrisp, Honeygold, Prairie Spy, Regent, Beacon, Red Baron and dozens of other varieties of apples have all been developed at the University of Minnesota. We may be known for our 10,000 lakes, but few people outside of the state realize that we are also a leader in apples. I didn’t realize this until my friend Stephen Durfee came to visit. Yes, it took a pastry chef from CA to show me what treasures were right in my own back yard. He set up a tasting with one of the “breeders” from the University and my education of apples began at a coffee shop on campus. We tried several of their latest and greatest developments and I realized for the first time the subtle and not so subtle differences of the fruit. The textures, acid, sugars and skins were all incredibly different, she talked about the characters as though we were tasting a bottle of fine wine.

I grew up in Vermont thinking that McIntosh apples were the end all, but realize now that there are apples  to satisfy my every mood; crisp, luscious, sweet, spicy, tangy, juicy, tart, even nutty. I’ve learned to combine them in my recipes to get a more complex and interesting flavor and mouth feel. Some of the apples will keep their shape when baked and others will turn to sauce. Depending on the variety you choose it may affect the amount of sugar that you use in the recipe. This cake is rather sweet and rich so I like to use tart apples, combined with the layer of pear. This delicious recipe was the inspiration for my very first post on ZoeBakes, before I owned a camera. I make it every year at this time, with different apples and a this year I added the pears. (more…)

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